As a culture we appear to be sliding down the slippery slope of infidelity with ever greater frequency. As many as 65 percent of men and 55 percent of women will have an extramarital affair by the time they are forty, according to the Journal of Psychology and Christianity. Christians are no different than secular men and women in this regard. A Christianity Today survey found that 23 percent of the three hundred pastors who responded admitted to sexually inappropriate behavior with someone other than their wives while in the ministry. While men still commit adultery most frequently, the fastest growing rate of infidelity is among young married women.
Why do men cheat? Why are they attracted to other women even when they claim to love their wives? Why do they look at other women with lust when they have a beautiful, willing wife at home? Here are some possible insights into why men may be predisposed (or just willing) to lust after women and even stray from their wedding vows. (Before we get started, let me just say that I am in no way condoning this behavior in men. To betray the trust and faith of your spouse and break your wedding vows is unconscionable and despicable behavior. However, many people—men and women—are falling into this trap in increasingly greater numbers. This is a huge problem in a significant number of marriages across the US. This is my attempt to explain possible causes, which will then help you understand how to prevent it from happening.)
Even men with great wives that they love very much have the capacity to betray a woman’s loyalty, love, and trust without much forethought. As hard as it may be to believe, a man’s lust for another woman has nothing to do with how much he does or doesn’t love his wife. Being biologically predisposed with the compulsion to procreate combined with the ability to compartmentalize areas of life so they do not overlap, permits men to separate differing segments or areas of their lives. It’s why a man can still have sex even if he’s been arguing with his wife. It’s also why a man who knows better is still capable of succumbing to another woman even though he loves his wife.
It also doesn’t matter how attractive man’s wife is. We see men married to gorgeous women who still cheat on them. Infidelity is probably more often about getting some emotional need met than it is about fulfilling a physical desire.
Additionally, men are (in general) biologically created to process the world around them visually. With the sexualization of our culture, men find themselves with sexual images thrust in their faces from the time they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night. Television programs show every guy in the cast having sexual advances made toward them by the flawless women they come in contact with each week (that doesn’t even count the highly sexualized commercials). Movies are worse, where even old guys like me have beautiful young girls attracted to their mature masculinity. Magazines, billboards, commercials all use sexual images to sell their products. Sex sells and Madison Avenue knows it. A partially clothed female body attracts the attention of both male and female buyers. Internet spam pops up on my computer every few minutes telling me there are “lonely housewives” or “willing young women” all wanting to have sex with me “right here in my own hometown!” Finally, pornographers use a variety of clever tricks and traps to ensnare men whenever possible.
While all that’s no excuse, this constant, low-grade sexual stimulation overloads and short-circuits our already motivated sexual desire, causing it to falter or, more often, to be hypersensitized, wanting more intensified levels of fulfillment. The desire for more and greater stimulation to gratify this artificially created lust can lead a man to end up in situations where he would never set out to go. An affair is almost never a spontaneous decision but a series of gradual choices that slowly lead to that outcome.
Our thought process can also lead us astray. One thought that frightens (or maybe depresses) many married men is the thought that they will never again have sex with a different woman (except their wife) for the rest of their life—which is a very long time! That thought might be comforting to a woman, but it causes near panic in a man’s psyche. If allowed to dwell on it a man could easily talk himself into a bad situation. When that biological impulse to procreate kicks in and causes you to fear dying without ever having “mated” with other women, it attacks the core of a male’s manhood. Whether this feeling is true or not, it causes many men to feel that once they lose their sexual power they will be figuratively put out to pasture, fading away into obscurity. It’s also why immature men often judge their manhood by the number of women they sleep with.
Men cheat for a variety of reasons—none of them good. Some men are weak and lack self-control, while others have psychological problems that compel them to obtain self-esteem or a sense of power from their libido. When men are bored and stuck in a rut they are more likely to stray. Men crave excitement. Additionally, like women, when men do not feel valued, appreciated, or respected they might try and get those needs met in the arms of another. Infidelity for men is seldom about love but more often about a sense of excitement, validation, and/or filling a void (like boredom) in their lives. Additionally, when men are under high levels of stress for long periods of time they may view an affair as either a temporary relief from or even a reward for their efforts.
For older men the lust aspect of adultery is at its core is probably more about recapturing youthful excitement than it is about strange sex. Boredom with his life, frustration with his career or other relationships, and the realization that he has not accomplished anything significant in life or is “less than” he anticipated all contribute to a yearning for adventure and excitement.
All this to say, both men and women are at risk for infidelity, especially when we are not aware of the factors that motivate us to seek getting our needs met through people other than our spouses.
This article is excerpted from Rick’s upcoming book, The Marriage of Your Dreams: A Woman’s Guide to Understanding Her Man, by Revell Publishing. Due for release October 1, 2012. To find out more go to www.betterdads.net.